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Archive for the ‘Governor’s Office’ Category

Cameron, Vermilion, Plaquemines and Jefferson are attempting to accomplish what Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East could not: hold oil and gas companies responsible for the destruction of Louisiana’s coastline.

On July 28, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry expressed his “disappointment” that Vermilion Parish had the audacity to file a lawsuit over damages to the parish coastline Vermilion District Attorney Keith Stutes said was caused by drilling activities of several dozen oil and gas companies.

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Landry, in a rare display of political accord, intervened in the lawsuit with Edwards asking the oil and gas industry to settle the litigation and to assist the state in footing the cost of restoring the cost, which is expected to reach tens of millions of dollars over the next half-century. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/jul/28/vermilion-sues-oil-and-gas-companies-over-coastal-/

Calling lawsuits filed by Cameron and Jefferson parishes as well as Vermilion “counter-intuitive,” Landry said, “We cannot allow these differing and competing interests to push claims which collectively impact the public policy for our coast and our entire state.”

Two weeks later, on Aug. 10, Landry was practically effervescent as he all but took full credit when 24th District Judge Stephen Enright dismissed a similar lawsuit by Jefferson Parish. “I intervened in this lawsuit because I was concerned that the interest of the State of Louisiana may not have been fully represented or protected.

“I accept the court’s ruling because addressing the issues associated with permit violations through the administrative process is a cost-effective, efficient way to resolve any violations,” he said. “That was clearly the purpose of the Legislature creating this regulatory scheme.”

Funny how Landry would choose to use the word scheme.

Scheme, after all, would appear to be appropriate, considering how much money the industry has invested in campaign contributions to Louisiana politicians.

Copy of Campaign Contributions

And there’s certainly no mystery why Landry is so protective of the industry. In fact, he might be described as Jindal 2.0 because of his determination to protect the industry to the detriment of the citizens od Louisiana.

After all, of the $3.3 million Landry received in campaign CONTRIBUTIONS between July 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2015 (during his campaign for attorney general), more than $550,000 came from companies and individuals with strong ties to the oil and gas industry.

Moreover, more than $600,000 in campaign contributions to Landry came from out-of-state donors, with many of those, such as Koch Industries ($10,000), one of America’s biggest polluters, also affiliated with the oil and gas industry.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/inside-the-koch-brothers-toxic-empire-20140924

http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2013/06/10/americas-20-worst-corporate-air-polluters/#10b98e794c70

http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/global-warming/climate-deniers/koch-industries/koch-industries-pollution/

(Koch Industries, by the way, with ties dating back to the right-wing extremist group, The John Birch Society—Fred Koch, Charles and David Koch’s father, was a charter member—has run afoul of federal law on numerous occasions, including fraud charges in connection with oil purchases from Indian reservations.) http://www.corp-research.org/koch_industries

One $5,000 donor, Cox Oil & Gas, was from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, according to Landry’s campaign finance records. That contribution date was May 20, 2014 but Cox Oil Offshore, LLC, Cox Oil, LLC, and Cox Operating, LLC, all of Dallas, contributed $5,000 each three weeks earlier, on April 28, 2014, those same records show.

Besides the Cox companies, Landry received more than $300,000 from firms and individuals from Texas, many of those from Houston and the surrounding area.

Landry, like Jindal and the bulk of legislators, has sold his soul to an industry that has ravaged our coastline, polluted our land and waterways, and failed to restore property to its original state when operations have concluded, all while reaping record profits and enriching stockholders.

LouisianaVoice has long adhered to the idea that there is far too much money in politics and that most of it comes from special interests. The reality is that citizens have long been removed from the political process.

If you don’t believe that, drop in on a House or Senate committee hearing on some controversial issue. Invariably, the issue will have already been decided by a quiet influx of special interest money and intense lobbying. As you sit and watch and listen to testimony of citizens, pay close attention because you will be the only one besides those testifying who will be doing so.

Watch the committee members. They will be checking emails or texts on their phones, talking and joking among themselves or just milling around, exiting the rear door of the committee room to get coffee—anything but listening to citizens’ concerns. Only on the rarest of occasions could a committee member give you a summation of the testimony.

The only time many legislators really take their jobs seriously is when they are discussing a bill with a lobbyist and that is unfortunate.

Once you’ve heard committee testimony go upstairs to the House or Senate chamber and take a seat in the front row of the spectator gallery. Observe how few of the senators or representatives is actually paying attention to the proceedings. The scene below you will underscore the adage that there are three things one should never see being made: love, sausage, and laws.

And while you’re at it, watch the lobbyists working the room. As you observe the absence of interaction between legislators and average citizens, do the math and deduce the way lawmakers are influenced. You won’t get far before you encounter the old familiar $.

Like him or not (and in Louisiana, it’s fairly accurate to say most don’t though they can’t give you a really sound reason why), President Obama pretty much nailed it when he was running for re-election in 2012.

Jane Mayer, in her excellent book Dark Money, quoted Obama from his speech in Osawatomie, Kansas (the same town where Theodore Roosevelt demanded in 1910 that the government be “freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests”), about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the ensuing glut of Super PAC money into the political arena:

  • “Inequality distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder.”

Meanwhile, Landry ramps up his war of words and political ideology with Gov. Edwards (perhaps in an effort to deflect attention away from his own flawed agenda). The most recent salvo was fired last week over the administration’s hiring of former Sen. Larry Bankston, a one-time convicted felon as legal counsel for the State Board of Contractors—never mind the fact that Landry also hired an employee formerly convicted of fraud for the attorney general’s fraud section. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/article_fe56114c-6ad7-11e6-8e7e-6f06140ad60e.html

It would appear that in Louisiana, the state has long since been sold out to the highest bidder as witnessed by the combined efforts of Jindal, Landry, legislators, and the courts to protect big oil at all costs.

As further evidence of this, consider the words of Gifford Briggs, Vice-President of and lobbyist for the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association (LOGA) in the run-up to the 2015 statewide elections immediately after Landry had indicated he might oppose then incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Asked if LOGA would support Landry, Briggs, the son of LOGA President Donald Briggs, said, “We can’t officially endorse any candidate. Our PAC can, but not us. Having said that, Jeff Landry is looking like a very good candidate for Attorney General.”

 

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A little more than five years ago, we launched LouisianaVoice in an attempt to bring political corruption in Louisiana into sharper focus. Two years ago, The Washington Post named Bob Mann’s Something Like the Truth and LouisianaVoice as two of the top 100 political blogs in the nation.

While we were quite proud to have been recognized by such a prestigious publication as the Post, that pride was tempered somewhat by the knowledge that we could never have achieved such a designation had political corruption not permeated all levels of government in Louisiana— from Shreveport to New Orleans, from Lake Charles to Monroe.

Now we learn that researchers Michael Johnston and Oguzhan Dincer, both former fellows at Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, have been conducting a “one-of-a-kind” corruption survey over the past two years.

“The survey is designed to construct perception-based measures of different forms of corruption in American states,” Dincer wrote us recently. “We surveyed more than 1,000 news reporters/journalists covering state politics and issues related to corruption across (each state).

“…We were able to construct measures of illegal and legal corruption for each (branch of) government in 50 states,” Dincer said, adding that the results of the survey “quickly drew extensive and positive attention from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Fortune Magazine, FiveThirtyEight, and a number of regional newspaper and broadcast stations.”

The results of that 2015 study were published by Illinois State University and the researchers are now in the process of conducting an updated survey. https://about.illinoisstate.edu/odincer/Pages/CorruptionSurvey2015.aspx

So just what is legal corruption as opposed to illegal corruption? Isn’t corruption just corruption without the adjectives? Dincer explained the difference. “We define illegal corruption as the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

Legal corruption, on the other hand, is defined as political gains in the form of campaign contributions to or endorsements of a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups by “explicit or implicit understanding.”

“According to several surveys, a large majority of Americans, both liberals and conservatives, think that donations to super PACs, for example, by corporations, unions, and individuals corrupt the government,” the researchers’ report said.

The 2014 report indicated that the leading states for moderately to very common illegal corruption in the executive branch of government were Arizona, New Jersey, Georgia, Kentucky and Utah. States identified as “very common” in illegal corruption in the legislative branch included Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Legal corruption was found in many more states. Kentucky and New Jersey were identified as states where legal corruption in the executive branch was “extremely common,” while those where it was “very common” included Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, New York and Texas.

Legal corruption in the legislative branch was far more discouraging on a nationwide basis. States where legal corruption in the legislative branch was “extremely common” included Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Montana, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

States where legislative branch legal corruption was called “very common” included Alaska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and Rhode Island.

When all factors were taken into consideration, the states leading in overall illegal corruption were Arizona, California, Kentucky, Alabama, Illinois, New Jersey, Georgia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Florida, Indiana, Rhode Island and Texas.

Setting the bar for overall legal corruption were Kentucky, Illinois, Nevada, Mississippi, New Jersey, Alabama, New Mexico, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

States that showed up as most corrupt in both legal and illegal corruption were Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.

So, where did Louisiana rank in all these studies?

“Surprisingly enough, we received no responses from Louisiana, which is historically one of the more corrupt states in America,” the report said. http://ethics.harvard.edu/blog/measuring-illegal-and-legal-corruption-american-states-some-results-safra

We knew there had to be a logical explanation. There just had to be.

Which brings us to the current survey.

“We are conducting the third wave of the survey this year and we would like you to take part in a short (5 minute) survey that will gauge your perception of government corruption in Louisiana,” Dincer wrote. “We will again be contacting as many news reporters/journalists as possible in this endeavor to ensure that our results are as reliable as possible. The responses are entirely anonymous and cannot be related to specific participants or institutions.”

So, to all political reporters—and that includes local government beat reporters and political bloggers—in Louisiana who may be reading this, here is the link to their survey.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KYNN5FC

Now that the legislative session is over and there is no gubernatorial election on the near horizon, there’s no reason for you not to participate.

Be completely truthful, candid and forthright and we can return Louisiana to its rightful spot at the top of the rankings.

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Seriously, Gov. Edwards, it’s time you pulled your head out of the sand and took a long, hard look at the Department of Public Safety (DPS), notably the Louisiana State Police (LSP), beginning at the top.

The longer you wait to take action to rein in this runaway agency, the more certain it becomes you are going to be embarrassed at some point in the future.

Take tomorrow’s (Aug. 11) meeting AGENDA, for example.

Even as Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne was warning earlier this week that we can expect another budgetary shortfall, Item 5 on tomorrow’s commission agenda is to rescind a general circular relative to the revision of the Uniform Pay and Classification Plan. This is so that state police, already the recipients of two major pay increases totaling 50 about percent last year, may get yet another raise. It’s worth noting that state classified employees have gone without pay raises of any description for six years now.

Then there is Item 7 which calls for the creation of an additional unclassified position of Lieutenant Colonel as Deputy Superintendent, Chief Administrative Officer especially to accommodate Maj. Jason Starnes—the same Jason Starnes who briefly was allowed to live rent-free in the State Police Training Academy barracks when he separated from his wife.

That would bring to something around one and one-half Lieutenant Colonel positions but more significantly, this is a thinly-veiled attempt by State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson to consolidate his power at LSP.

This is a move to circumvent a complaint filed in May over Edmonson’s promotion of Starnes as Interim Undersecretary of Management and Finance, even going so far as to post his “new” position on the State Police Web page.

Starnes, a classified member of LSP, was transferred by Edmonson to the unclassified non-state police service position. That move, the complaint said, was in violation of Rule 14.3(G), which says:

  • No classified member of the State Police shall be appointed, promoted, transferred or any way employed in or to any position that is not within the State Police Service.

The proposed creation of the new unclassified position will place Starnes in direct supervision of his estranged wife, Tammy, Audit Manager for LSP.

We first announced the proposed appointment of Starnes by Edmonson in May https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/16/mike-edmonsons-appointment-not-official-yet-senate-committee-set-to-consider-his-confirmation-on-tuesday/ and in June we announced that Edmonson had pulled the promotion following filing of the complaint. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

LouisianaVoice was first to report two years ago that Edmonson had orchestrated an attempt to tack an amendment onto a House bill on the final day of the 2014 legislative session which would have given him an additional $55,000 per year in retirement pay in contravention of an irrevocable option he had exercised years before that froze his retirement at a lower level. https://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/11/generous-retirement-benefit-boost-slipped-into-bill-for-state-police-col-mike-edmonson-on-last-day-of-legislative-session/

More recently, the executive director of the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) was found to have contributed tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns on behalf of LSTA. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

While individual state troopers, like their civil service counterparts in state government, are prohibited from taking part in political campaigns, including making campaign contributions, LSTA Executive Director David Young made the contributions in his name and was reimbursed by the association. https://louisianavoice.com/2015/12/09/more-than-45000-in-campaign-cash-is-funneled-through-executive-director-by-louisiana-state-troopers-association/

An attorney and former state legislator, Taylor Townsend of Natchitoches, was given a $75,000 contract to conduct an investigation of the money laundering scheme. But true to form for ethics investigations in Louisiana (an ethics complaint against LSP has been pending for months with no indication of a ruling forthcoming any time in the foreseeable future), Taylor made a 10-minute presentation at last month’s meeting in which he recommended that no action be taken. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/07/14/expectations-of-state-police-commission-report-on-lsta-campaign-contribution-probe-dies-with-a-pitiful-whimper/

A recording of the Troop I Chapter of LSTA was made available to Townsend but he has refused to release a copy of that recording in which it was admitted that the LSTA was in violation of state law in making the contributions. Taylor’s refusal to release the recording was based on his assertion that the tape “was never entered into evidence,” an explanation that makes no sense whatsoever in terms of conducting a thorough investigation.

Moreover, Townsend, in additional attempts to prevent his “findings” from being made public, did not prepare a written report to the board on which to base his recommendation of no action.

Which brings up a little problem regarding Commission Rule 16:18 regarding LSPC investigations. That rule says the following:

So for $75,000, we have a so-called “investigation,” but no written report, no written decision, nothing apparently submitted into evidence, and a recommendation of no action.

Really? I could have done that for $10,000 and given the commission change back.

There is only one person in the entire state who could have neutered that investigation in such a manner.

And we thought Bobby Jindal was underhanded and secretive.

John Bel Edwards is a man who confided in me of his intentions to run before he officially announced for governor. For whatever reason, he wanted my feedback. He then ran on the West Point Honor Code. He even told me he had no intentions one way or another as to the reappointment of Edmonson. Obviously, he was being less than truthful.

Now, it seems, he cares little for others’ opinions—unless they are members of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association. His West Point Honor Code has somehow morphed into a code of political expediency, expedience dictated by the sheriffs’ association.

Edwards needs to turn his attention from the sheriffs’ association’s whispers in his ear and direct his focus more on appointees who are working surreptitiously to build an impenetrable wall around their fiefdoms designed to enhance their own power bases.

Beginning with that abortive pension increase amendment and continuing through the personnel debacles in Lake Charles, to administering little or no discipline in cases of troopers having sex in their patrol cars while on duty, to sneaking underage women into a casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi, to allowing the LSTA to make campaign contributions (do you really think the LSTA would do something like that without his blessings?), Edmonson has brought a succession of embarrassments down upon the LSP.

The question now becomes: How much more is Edwards willing to tolerate?

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Stephen F. Campbell has been around quite a while in a number of capacities within the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and now he’s back as something called a Confidential Assistant to Louisiana State Police (LSP) Superintendent Mike Edmonson at the Joint Emergency Services Training Center (JESTC) in Zachary—with a benefit package that includes free room and board.

Campbell is a former Deputy Secretary of DPS in the Transportation and Environmental Safety Section. Following his retirement in 1987, he served as a public safety and transportation advocate in Washington, D.C., where he represented the American Trucking Association, the Motor Freight Carriers Association and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

On July 11, 2011, he returned to LSP as Training and Development Program Staff Manager at $84,000 per year.

He remained at that position just over a year, terminating on July 31, 2012. Five days later, on August 5, 2012, he was appointed by Bobby Jindal as Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) to succeed former State Sen. Nick Gautreaux.

http://kpel965.com/new-director-for-the-office-of-motor-vehicles/

He started out at a salary of $99,000 but on July 1, 2015, during a time state civil service employees were going yet another year without pay increases, he was bumped up to $104,000.

But political realities being what they are, Campbell’s position as head of OMV was destined to be short-lived. Four months later, Democrat John Bel Edwards was elected governor and in December, the governor-elected pegged former Democratic State Rep. Karen St. Germain of Plaquemine to the position and Campbell appeared to be out.

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/12/john_bel_edwards_appointees.html

But wait. When you’re a FOE (Friend of Edmonson), you’re never out.

Campbell had no sooner cleaned out his desk than Edmonson appointed him as his Confidential Assistant on January 11, coincidentally, the day Edwards was inaugurated as Governor.

Edmonson attempted to negotiate a salary for Campbell that was comparable to what he was making as OMV director but was told that Campbell was not qualified for that salary grade.

So, his salary is $64,500 per year and while his official title is Confidential Assistant, he is assigned to JESTC as an assistant manager, a position that never existed before. Observers at JESTC insist that he does little, if anything, to earn his salary.

One insider said, “An assistant manager was never needed during those years that JESTC was training foreign officers, nor when Triple Canopy had a large portion of the property leased for their training operations.”

Triple Canopy, founded in May 2003 by veteran U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers, is a private security company that provides risk management, security, and mission support services for corporate, government and non-profit clients.

“There have been no outside agencies doing substantial business with JESTC since Triple Canopy moved away a couple of years ago,” our source added.

A search by LouisianaVoice of current and expired contracts turned up no contracts between LSP and Triple Canopy, so the terms of the lease agreement remain obscured. LouisianaVoice has made a public records request for that lease agreement.

The JESTC features a Staff Development Center (SDC), a motel-type facility. SDC rooms are commonly assigned to troopers when they arrive from out of town for extended training. The rooms are assigned by the SDC staff during normal office hours and by an LSP Barracks supervisor after normal office hours. Rooms are also rented by outside agencies which use the facility for various activities, including training.

LouisianaVoice has been told that the Barracks Lieutenant assigned Room 613 to Campbell, apparently on something other than a temporary basis because a recent mix-up stirred the ire of Campbell.

Recently, the Control Room Supervisor at the LSP Barracks received an irate call from Campbell. Edmonson’s Confidential Assistant, it seems, was complaining that Room 613—his room—had apparently been assigned to another trooper by mistake. Campbell told the supervisor that the room was reserved for his exclusive use only and was not to be assigned to anyone else in the future, according to our sources.

This is reminiscent to our story a couple of month ago which revealed that State Police Major Jason Starnes, subsequent to his separation from his wife, was residing in the LSP Training Academy’s VIP quarters, aka the “Charlie Dupuy Suite,” so named because Edmonson’s Chief of Staff Charlie Dupuy also resided there during his own divorce.

https://louisianavoice.com/2016/06/06/starnes-promotion-pulled-by-edmonson-after-complaint-governor-fails-to-sign-lsp-pay-plan-rescinded-by-lspc/

There seems to be a developing pattern here: If you are a FOE and in need of a place to crash, there’s plenty of rent-free space available, complete with all the amenities, including meals, at the LSP cafeteria.

These are perks not available to anyone outside Edmonson’s tight little circle.

Rank does have its privileges.

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For those who live in the Baton Rouge area and don’t yet have a copy (and for those who wouldn’t mind driving a few miles), I will be signing my book, Bobby Jindal: His Destiny and Obsession, at the Perkins Rowe Barnes and Noble Booksellers from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. this Saturday (Aug. 6).

In case you haven’t been keeping up, this book is not a puff piece promoting Jindal. Instead, it is an accurate account of the eight years of wanton destruction he inflicted upon this state as governor in absentia and wannabe Republican presidential candidate.

The book, which includes chapters written by such notables as:

  • Former Director of the Louisiana Budget Office Stephen Winham (“Jindal’s Policies: Fiscal Failure or Mission Accomplished?”);
  • Director of Admissions at a Louisiana university Bridget Jacobs (“Bobby Jindal and Louisiana’s Higher Education”);
  • CenLamar blogger, recent law school graduate and political consultant Lamar White (“Jindal’s Fool’s Gold Standard: Why Ethics Reform Failed in Louisiana”);
  • Former Department of Education employee, former candidate for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and education blogger Jason France, aka Crazy Crawfish (“Smoke and Mirrors: Education Reform under Jindal”), and
  • New Orleans Gambit Chairman and Political Editor Clancy Dubos: (“Jindal’s F-Word Tour”).

Of course there also are about 40 chapters written by yours truly, none of which can be considered complimentary of the one once praised by the likes of Rush Limbaugh but whose once-shining political light was snuffed out by his own blundering economic, education, ethics, and political ineptness.

I am also extending an invitation to those named above who so graciously agreed to write chapters—and to whom I will be forever grateful—to come by and also sign copies of the book.

Besides writing their respective chapters, they are also valuable resources for information and policy on whom I have called many times for assistance and advice.

And even if you already have a copy of the book, come on by and say hello. I always love to meet and hear from readers of LouisianaVoice.

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